The question is what of these powers, or 'siddhis' that are spoken of? Are they legit, and how are they gained? And, do we aim to gain for the purpose of acquisition, or the the purpose of transcendence and relinquishment?
Here is the fruit, here is the tree of that knowledge...
“JANMAUSHADHI MANTRA TAPAH SAMAADHI JAAH SIDDHAYAH”
Janma = birth
aushadhi = herb, elixir, medicinal plant, drug, incense
mantra = incantation, charm, spell
tapah = zeal, shining, brilliance, heat, consumption, an ascetic devotional practice, burning desire to reach perfection, that which burns all impurities
samadhi = profound meditation, total absorption
jah = born
siddhayah = perfections, accomplishments, fulfillments, attainments, psychic powers.
"Siddhis are born of practices performed in previous incarnations, by elixirs, through mantra repetition, asceticism, or by samadhi."
This Sutra states that yogic powers – “siddhis” – can be attained via "aushadha,” – elixirs/herbs/drugs/plants.
Some initial and essential queries on 4.1:
- what does 'aushadhi' refer exactly – can we accept or preclude any of those translations?
- What is the evidence for 'plant-based elixirs' contemporaneously? Since ganga and bhang are both figured so deeply in the traditions, are we to understand that cannabis is a doorway to powers and enlightenment?
- to which of the yogic powers, siddhis, do these herbs, aushadha, give birth?
- how, exactly, do aushadha give rise to siddhis? Via what processes - alchemical, mystical, practical - are we to attain siddhis?
- are all methods of attaining siddhis - past lives, elixirs and herbs, mantra, tapas, and samadhi - to be considered equally virtuous or noble? If not, why?
- what is the evidence that any of the methods or vehicles would be considered more or less refined or desirable?
these are fascinating, captivating questions, and worthy of query, examination and experimentation; and, not out of the course of the Vedas, for it is always bhang that Shakti is serving Shiva as her love offering.
"Tantra is divided into the right handed and left handed Tantras. The right-handed or Dakshinachara adheres to the Yamas and Niyamas of the Yoga system, including following a vegetarian diet. The left handed or Vamachara system includes the use of intoxicants - alcohol and psychedelic or mind-altering drugs - and the eating of meat, when sanctified in a ritualistic context to make them spiritually beneficial. The Vamachara system uses the more overt sexual Yogas, though the Dakshinachara tradition is not opposed to sex in a sanctified relationship.
"Generally speaking, the right-handed Tantra is more for those in whom sattva guna predominates. The left-handed Tantra is for those in whom rajas and tamas predominate.
"There are some Tantric teachers today who do claim that a meat diet and other Vamachara practices are a better and quicker way to reach Self-realization. They may claim that the Dakshinachara or sattvic approaches are not possible for people to really do today and only result in repression. This tradition does exist for those who want to follow it. Yet while the Vamachara done sincerely can be a valid path, particularly in the modern cultural context, it is a stepping stone to Dakshinachara, not a substitute for it."
"This is the true test of an Aghori: From full-blown tamas he must graduate to pure sattva, love for all."
In the book on the Yoga Sutras entitled Yoga, Power, and Spirit: Patanjali the Shaman, Alberto Villodo, Ph.D. maintains that according to Patanjali:
"the siddhis are essential to achieving samadhi, which is the true power … to deny them [the siddhis] is to deny your ultimate freedom. You can only step beyond these powers once you've acquired them. Renouncing them beforehand, as many practitioners of yoga do, mimics yet forestalls the true liberation… In addition, renouncing the siddhis, as some yoga teachers today advocate, keeps you powerless, and perpetuates your suffering as a victim."
This is a point well-taken, considering that the Yoga Sutras and other texts do describe a number of these siddhis, ranging from clairvoyance, knowledge of past and future events (including one's past lives), the power to make oneself minute or even invisible, superhuman strength, conquest of hunger and thirst, control through voice, and influence on time, space, water or fire, among others. Again, these all are said to be the result from the practice of 'Samyama.' But what of siddhis that arise through other means, such as use of aushadha — are they comparable?
This is a question deeply rooted in the Mystic tradition; not to be parsed and analyzed, but rather to be explored and experienced... I know that there are times I've felt coursed-through by siddhis for Akash - time and space - and also of the Vak - voice, command through direct words - especially in the yoga setting.
This is fertile ground to reap from, as the days grow shorter and the harvest quickens... Dive deep, feel what you feel more with less thought, and give thanks and praise!!